From the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell comes “a masterwork of history” (Lawrence Wright, author of God Save Texas), the spellbinding, epic account of the last year of the Civil War.
The fourth and final year of the Civil War offers one of the most compelling narratives and one of history’s great turning points. Now, Pulitzer Prize finalist S.C. Gwynne breathes new life into the epic battle between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant; the advent of 180,000 black soldiers in the Union army; William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea; the rise of Clara Barton; the election of 1864 (which Lincoln nearly lost); the wild and violent guerrilla war in Missouri; and the dramatic final events of the war, including Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and the murder of Abraham Lincoln.
“A must-read for Civil War enthusiasts” (Publishers Weekly), Hymns of the Republic offers many surprising angles and insights. Robert E. Lee, known as a great general and Southern hero, is presented here as a man dealing with frustration, failure, and loss. Ulysses S. Grant is known for his prowess as a field commander, but in the final year of the war he largely fails at that. His most amazing accomplishments actually began the moment he stopped fighting. William Tecumseh Sherman, Gwynne argues, was a lousy general, but probably the single most brilliant man in the war. We also meet a different Clara Barton, one of the greatest and most compelling characters, who redefined the idea of medical care in wartime. And proper attention is paid to the role played by large numbers of black union soldiers—most of them former slaves.
Popular history at its best, Hymns of the Republic reveals the creation that arose from destruction in this “engrossing…riveting” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) read.
Gwynne (Rebel Yell) homes in on the Civil War's last, brutal year with intelligent battlefield analyses and sympathetic, evenhanded portrayals of Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Clara Barton, and other major figures. Ambitious, humbly dressed Grant became the general of the Army of the Potomac and finally defeated the Confederacy through battlefield successes and jaw-dropping systematic devastation of the Shenandoah Valley and Atlanta, giving Lee generous terms of surrender at Appomattox. Lincoln struggled with years of Confederate victories, fresh political challenges from radical Republicans in the 1864 election, and the practicalities of multitudes of newly freed slaves. Throughout the narrative, Gwynne gives frank details on the thousands of African-Americans who toiled on both sides of the war, reminding the reader of the conflict's high stakes. The purposeful, powerful ending describes the horrific conditions in prisoner-of-war camps, pushing past the romantic mythologizing that was once common in writing about this devastating era. Gwynne excels in tightly focused storytelling, beginning most chapters with a well-chosen, often curiosity-provoking photograph. This is a must-read for Civil War enthusiasts.